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4.6 out of 5 stars
The Woman He Loved Before
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99 of 102 people found the following review helpful
Koomson's books always seem to have an element of mystery to her books - we know certain things about the characters and certain events, yet there is always something in the background we don't know everything about, and this is usually the crux of the story, and ends up shocking the reader, something I love about her books. Her last novel, The Ice Cream Girls, certainly didn't disappoint on this front, and now this one manages to trump even that, I was absolutely glued to this book from start to finish.

We begin at the scene of Libby and Jack's road accident. Libby is in a bad way, and she is upset at her husband about something, but we are clueless as to what. The accident is actually a very important part of the whole book, and is constantly flashed-back to throughout the book, with the accident parts occurring in italics to separate them from the present day. Surrounding this story, we have what is going on with Libby and Jack in the present day and this was also exciting to read. Libby is a likeable character - she clearly loves her husband Jack very much but feels she very much lives in the shadow of Jack's former wife Eve. Koomson writes Libby as a sympathetic character - I felt like I was meant to dislike Jack for how he treats Libby, but for me neither of these were the best character in the book.

Eve is the one character we hear a lot about right from the start of the book, yet in reality we know nothing definite about her until halfway through when Libby makes a discovery at their home which threatens both her marriage to Jack and her own mental state. Libby discovers something that belongs to Eve, something which reveals every intimate detail about the woman who Jack still adores, and Libby is shocked by this information. The way Koomson reveals this to her readers is perfect - the whole scenario of Libby finding this out and her reactions make it all the more thrilling because I was convinced I could see how it was all going to work out, yet Koomson had me fooled once more! Eve's story builds and builds throughout the latter half of the book, sending the book hurtling to a dramatic and exciting conclusion.

As usual, Koomson hasn't shied away from a very gritty topic, and this one was probably the grittiest I have read from her so far. It's hard to review this aspect because I don't want to give the topics away because for me, uncovering Eve's story was the best thing about it and not knowing anything was a bonus without a doubt. Suffice to say, it's not a topic that is easy to read about, yet I found myself completely dedicated to the book, despite some of the more graphic scenes and nature of this part of the book. Koomson makes it compelling to read, and I felt so sorry for Eve, she is such a likeable character caught in an impossible situation, and you can't help but sympathise yet read with horror every action she takes, and you are just sure it is going to end horribly, yet Koomson twists and turns the story so much, I couldn't guess the ending for the life of me.

As you can probably tell from this glowing review, I absolutely adored this book and just couldn't put it down. It's a big chunk of a book at 464 pages, but it whizzed by for me, I was so absorbed in the story and desperate to find out what on earth was happening with Eve, Libby and Jack that I didn't notice the chapters flying by. I really liked how Koomson presented the story, with the flashbacks to the accident throughout the book keeping your mind on that mystery, then flitting to present day and back again to the information Libby uncovers about Eve. It's easy to follow despite these threads, and the stories all inter-mingle perfectly, making an absolutely stunning read. I cannot recommend it enough!
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 16 February 2011
I blame My Best Friends Girl for this obsession with Dorothy Koomson novels! what an excellent book, from start to finish it has had me completly hooked, so much so i'm quite sad i finished it so quickly. Following on from The Ice Cream Girls, DK has managed to keep two plotlines moving alongside another to meet with another excellent twist and explosive ending. not as upseting as some of her earlier novel, this like Ice Cream makes the reader really gt into the minds and lives of the characters, esp Eve and Libby. love it and in fact i might start it again!
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 3 March 2011
I'm a huge fan of Dorothy Koomson's books (I ordered this from the US, after all!) and I was really looking forward to The Woman He Loved Before. I wish I could give this 3.5 stars, because that's a more accurate expression of my feelings about this book. There was a lot here that I liked, and a lot that seemed not to be addressed. The mystery of what happened to Eve was rather engrossing, and I admired the sympathy that Libby felt for her husband's first wife; it would have been all to easy for her to demonize the dead woman. I liked how different characters knew bits and pieces of events, which is more true to life, and less like those novels in which everybody seems to be omniscient.

I didn't find Jack to be a completely developed character. He seemed to exist as whomever he was expected to be at the time, which made him feel hollow to me. He was Eve's dream man, and Libby's distant husband, and really not much else. His thoughts never seemed to advance far beyond some variation on the theme of "poor me," and it really annoyed me. I kind of wanted Cerie from The Cupid Effect to come and straighten out Libby. It seemed like she could do so much better.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 16 June 2011
I almost steered clear when I saw comments that implied this might be chick-lit but I'm glad I didn't as it's well-structured and at times suspenseful.

The story centres around Libby, intelligent, beautiful, and deeply in love with Jack, a wealthy solicitor with an elegant home that he has lovingly restored, but who still harbours strong feelings for his late wife. Libby's life changes dramatically when she is scarred after an accident as a passenger in Jack's car. What happened immediately after the accident is alluded to but not revealed until later, but there are hints that whatever it is will have a profound effect on the relationship.

As the book progresses, the story of Jack's first wife, Eve, is told through her diaries and, although unpleasant and possibly even offensive to some readers, it is every bit as intriguing as the modern-day story of Libby and Jack, especially in the way the characters become inextricably linked. While Libby and Eve are well drawn and really come to life (especially Eve), Jack lacks depth so never feels like a real person.

There are several surprising revelations - almost twists but not quite - that were skilfully woven into the story, which at times is quite gripping. There's certainly an element of mystery and suspense, and the ending is satisfying, but despite being enjoyable I didn't feel it was a five-star read. It's generally well written and I liked Dorothy Koomson's style so might have given it four stars had it not been (in the hardback edition at least) marred by spelling mistakes and missing words (mainly prepositions) that even a basic spell-checker should have spotted. These detract from the story (although other reviewers don't seem to have been so irritated by them) so I trust that they will have been corrected in subsequent editions, either by the author or by the publisher's editors.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 30 September 2011
This is the first Dorothy Koomson book I have read and whilst I have not been put off I am not dashing out to get another one either. I liked this book but nothing more. I was expecting this book to be about Libby's obsession with Eve and the affect it had on her marriage but actually other than scuttling down to the cellar to read Eve's diarys I didn't feel there was much else to show that she was affected. To me this book is more about Eve (the dead first wife) than Libby (the living breathing second one) and her relationship with Jack (her very 1 dimensional husband). Whilst I found Eve's story captivating I was left wanting to see more of the relationship between Jack and Libby which I felt was largely skimmed over. The suspense about whether Jack had killed Eve was basically laughable and Hector whilst obviously a despicable man when described by Eve didn't feature enough to make me feel he was menacing to Libby. I felt that Butch the dog and Jack had an equal showing in this book which can't be right surely?
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
As always with Dorothy Koomson, I am unsure that she falls into the Chick Lit genre as her books always have an element of drama about them. Her books always seem to radiate true emotion and I always finish one of her books feeling sad that I have to wait for another. This book was no different and as I write my review I can't help but be annoyed that I will again have to wait what seems like forever for another one of her books.

This particular story seems at first glance to be a straight cut story about Jack's wife who died Eve. However, things are far from straightforward and as soon as you pick up the book and start to read you are drawn into the current life of Libby who is struggling with things, as well as Eve's past life and the secrets she holds.

The story is told cleverly and although towards the latter part of the book I thought I had it all figured out, I was shocked to realise I was wrong. Libby is a lovely character who has her own insecurities about her husband Jack and the things he hides. Although it's clear that Jack has a troubled past you can't help but warm to him as a reader. He may not be perfect but you can't help but feel that his heart truly belongs to Libby.

Dorothy Koomson has again written a book that is not only powerful but one that is quite heart wrenching. When the past of Jack and Eve begin to come out you begin to realise that things are quite as black and white as they seem. I found myself desperately wanting everything to be okay.

I loved the fact that story had two very separate threads, one in the past and one in the current, but the two stories would intertwine magically. I also loved the setting being mainly in Brighton as well as London. The main topics that are dealt with in the book are always the easiest for an author to deal with well but this book truly relays the situations in a great way. That may sound slightly strange as I haven't revealed the topics but to do so would be a real plot spoiler.

As ever DK has produced an outstanding book that I literally couldn't (or wouldn't as my husband kindly pointed out) put down. I cannot recommend this book, or for that matter this author highly enough. I have yet to find fault with her writing or any of her books. An absolute joy to read and one I suggest that you put on your list to read!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 November 2011
WARNING: CONTAINS SOME PLOTLINES I have never read anything by Dorothy Koomson before and didn't know what to expect. I found the first third of the book a bit slow but then I was totally hooked. This story is told through the voices of Libby and Eve. Libby has fallen in love with Jack but feels that his dead wife, Eve, still holds his heart. Jack doesn't talk much about Eve and Libby learns that he was actually a suspect in her death. While recovering from a dreadful car accident she stumbles upon Eve's diaries and the story unfolds. Although I did enjoy the book I found the character of Eve a little irritating. I am sure that women the world over are forced into prostitution through dire circumstances but Eve starts down this route because she wants to buy an expensive new dress. She is an free woman with no hungry children to feed, surely she had more options? I found it difficult to summon up much sympathy for her. Koomson does a good job expressing how difficult it is for women to escape from such a destructive lifestyle. Eve is manipultaed horribly by repulsive men, including her own worthless boyfriend. The story does rather depend on the reader believing in an absolutely huge coincidence but is very enjoyable none-the-less.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 December 2011
I have enjoyed several of Dorothy Koomson's books and find her writing to be of a consistently high quality. I enjoyed this book, to a point. It was well-plotted and I certainly wanted to know what the conclusion of the mystery was. My big problem with it, was that there was too much harrowing detail. I found I wanted to skip past some of it because it was so distasteful.

The story is mainly told from the point of view of three people- Libby, her husband Jack and his dead wife, Eve. It skips back and forward in time and Eve's story is told through diary entries. The start of the book lingers for far too long on how Libby and Jack got together. It was so drawn out that I started to wonder when on earth the mystery/thriller aspect was going to kick in. Once it finally did, I was much more interested. While recovering from a terrible accident, Libby becomes suspicious about how Eve died and starts to try and find out, helped by her diaries. Here's where the harrowing details come in. Eve had a truly horrifying life before she married Jack and her diaries describe it in such detail that goes on and on and on. I just wanted it to stop. The detail served a purpose to the plot but about half as much would have served the same purpose.

My other problem with the story, were the pointless side journeys that we were taken on. The police thinking that Libby's accident wasn't an accident, for example. That story takes up a fair bit of plot and goes absolutely nowhere. The book builds up to a big finale where you hope that people will get their just desserts or something exciting will happen, but it ends up being rather rushed and unsatisfying.

All in all, it's fairly classic Dorothy Koomson, but while I was reading it, it left a bitter taste. I wouldn't read it again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
It is hard to put into words the emotions that this book conjured up. I felt so sorry for Libby who desperately loved Jack but found herself in a marriage which was overshadowed by his love for his first wife, Eve, who died in mysterious circumstances three years ago.

As Libby struggles to deal with the aftermath of a car crash and the belief that Jack doesn't love her she happens upon Eve's private diaries and begins to gain an understanding of who she was and what lies behind Jack's refusal to discuss the past. As Libby delves deeper into the diaries she finds herself on her own deeply moving and emotional journey. But it soon becomes clear that nothing is as straightforward as it first seems and she finds her own life to be in danger.

I loved how the book was written from the perspectives of the main characters, Libby, Jack, Eve and even Jack's mother, Harriet. The lives of Libby and Jack in the present are cleverly interwoven with Eve's story from the past giving you an insight into each character's point of view whilst as the same time progressing the actual story.

This story was beautifully written and extremely engaging. The writing style made me feel like I was actually there and a witness to what was taking place.

Although it is a large book the time flew by whilst I was reading it and I reached the end far too quickly. You know how you feel when you reach the end of a book and you feel slightly bereft that it is over? That is how I felt when I finished the last page.

This is the first book I have read by Dorothy Koomson - I now wish I hadn't waited so long to find her!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Libby is a thoroughly modern, strong, self-sufficient young woman who is ultimately charmed by, falls in love with and marries Jack, a man who at first she genuinely disliked, and with good reason. This means the reader is never quite sure about Jack - is he really a good man, or is he trying to hide his real personality? The story of Jack and Libby's relationship is interspersed with small segments about a terrible car crash in which Libby was badly injured. At the hospital, a police officer says something to Jack about this being a coincidence after his first wife died in suspicious circumstances, and from then on we're thrown headlong into the story. While she's recuperating from the accident, Libby has time to find out more about Jack's first wife, Eve, and as she uncovers the story of Eve's life some terrible and genuinely shocking secrets emerge that put her, and Jack's future in jeopardy.

This is a very good, well-told story and it is completely compelling, you can't put the book down. As it turns out we find out everything about Eve through Libby's eyes and her story is harrowing and fascinating in equal measures. Both Eve and Libby come across as real characters and I liked them both in their own different ways, they're both strong, compassionate, loyal and trying to do the right thing.

I don't want to say too much about why the book lost a star as it will give too much away but it seemed to me far too easy for Libby to find out everything about Eve, some of Eve's actions simply didn't ring true to me and like some other reviewers, Jack didn't work as a character for me at all. None of these things spoiled a very good, enjoyable read though. Recommended.
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